Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Former Norfolk employee files $450K federal lawsuit against city alleging ‘racial discrimination’

NORFOLK — A former Norfolk employee is suing the city for $450,000 after alleged racial discrimination that he said created a hostile working environment and led to his termination, court documents state.

Mark McKoy, who is black, began working for the city’s cultural facilities, arts and entertainment department on Jan. 13, 2015. The department manages SevenVenues, the Norfolk Police and Fire Rescue Museum, the MacArthur Memorial Museum and public art, according to the city’s website.

In a complaint filed on Aug. 18 in the Eastern District Court of Virginia, McKoy alleged that he was discriminated against by his supervisor because she treated him differently than his white co-workers, made derogatory remarks about African Americans and put up an offensive poster in an employee work space.

McKoy filed a racial discrimination complaint with Norfolk, but the city allegedly did not address the problem. He also filed a racial discrimination complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Aug. 26, 2016 and was notified of his right to sue by the United States Department of Justice on May 24, 2017, court documents state.

McKoy said that the discrimination began around Aug. 1, 2015 when he asked his supervisor, LeAnn White, to let him make adjustments to his work schedule so that he could go to school. White refused to let him alter his schedule, but allowed white employees to change their schedules, the complaint states.

“Some Caucasian employees were allowed to set their own schedule at their convenience. McKoy was never afforded any such opportunity,” the complaint reads.

McKoy also accused White of assigning him and other black employees with the “dirtiest” jobs at the department, including picking up human waste and dead animals. He complained that white employees were never forced to do that kind of work, according to court documents.

When McKoy was accused of mimicking White, he was punished; however, his white co-workers were not reprimanded for using obscene language in front of their boss, according to the complaint.

When McKoy complained about White’s behavior to the city of Norfolk on Sept. 3, 2015 the city did nothing to address his concerns. McKoy said that the working environment became worse after he complained, court documents state.

On a wall used to display employee schedules, White allegedly hung a poster of a pyramid with a man on top using a whip on three black men who were pulling the pyramid, the complaint states.

McKoy said he and other black employees were offended and that some filed complaints about the poster to Norfolk’s human resources department.

McKoy also accused White of using derogatory language when talking to and about black employees, including telling one that “some animals are smarter than you” in front of other employees, according to the complaint.

McKoy also said that White and another employee, Dave Young, had a conversation about three cultural facilities employees they would like to see fired. All three employees were black, court documents state.

In the suit, McKoy said he was humiliated and put under stress that interfered with his job performance. He also claims he was denied promotions and was terminated on the basis of his race.

“Norfolk routinely treated its African American employees less favorably than similarly situated Caucasian employees,” the complaint states.

McKoy and his lawyer are asking for a jury to decide the fate of the lawsuit. McKoy is asking to be reimbursed for lost wages and benefits from May 16, 2017 until the judgment is made, as well as lost future wages, attorney’s fees and damages for emotional pain.

When asked to comment on the lawsuit, the city’s cultural facilities director, John Rhamstine, declined.

“It’s an ongoing personnel matter,” he said.

McKoy declined to comment on the case through his attorney Wayne Barry Montgomery.

“The complaint is more of a summary of the allegations. They’ll be corroborated by several people who worked in his department, including former managers,” Montgomery told Southside Daily.

Send news tips to adrienne.m@wydaily.com.

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